The following July 26 story appeared on the La Stampa/VaticanInsider website.
The words pronounced by Jesus at the Last Supper to turn the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ are the most sacred words in the liturgy. In the original Greek version of the Gospels, the blood was poured “for many” (“pollon” in Greek) and so it was translated in Latin as “pro multis”. But in the reform implemented after the Second Vatican Council, “pro multis” was translated as “for all”.
In 2006, a year after Ratzinger’s election, the Congregation for Divine Worship invited bishops’ conferences to update new versions of the missal with the correct translation. Many countries have already made the change from “for all” to “for many”: Hungary, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia. Churches that celebrate the Eucharist in English have also replaced “for all” to “for many”.
In Italy a vote was held on the matter during the general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference in Assisi, in November 2010. Here, 171 out of 187 individuals voted in favour of keeping “for all”. The main reason given was that in some languages “for many” seems to contrast with “for all” almost as if the universal call for salvation and Christ’s sacrifice were not intended for everyone. Though it is a gratuitous gift, that gift needs to be accepted by the person who receives it.
In Italian especially, the change could appear limiting, giving the impression that Jesus’ sacrifice and the salvation offered to man was not intended for everyone. A suggestion for how to overcome this obstacle is offered in a book by Biblicist Francesco Pieri from the Diocese of Bologna entitled: “Per una moltitudine. Sulla traduzione delle parole eucaristiche” (“For many. On the translation of Eucharistic words”) (published by Dehoniana Libri, 48 pages, Euro 4,50)
Although the academic agrees with efforts to remain faithful to the original text, he does not believe that the Italian translation “For many” is an ideal solution. He shares the view of individuals such as Biblicist Albert Vanhoye, who was created cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2006.
According to Vanhoye, the Jewish word “rabbim” interpreted as “pollon” in Greek means “a great number” without any specification as to whether this refers to a totality. Pieri therefore proposes the adoption, in Italian, of the solution French bishops have opted for: “pour la multitude”, “for the multitude” or – and this is the tile of his short essay – “for a multitude”. This would ensure a faithful translation of the Evangelical text and would prevent the replacement of “for many” with “for all” from giving the wrong idea of Christ’s salvation not being universal.
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